Shadow

A Birthday Present for America

It was the 3rd of July, and I was on the front porch of my beach house unfurling my American flag and getting ready for the annual 4th of July party bash.

Across the street, I noticed two neighborhood kids busily setting up a card table and lawn chairs in front of their house, close to the road. I had a sneaky suspicion I was about to spend some money.

I watched the kids for a while from a distance as they finished off a sign that I imagined announced what they were selling. One of the two took the sign across the street to set up for traffic approaching from the other lane. The older of the two gave hand signals indicating the direction of the placement of the advertisement. Occasionally, the voice of the older brother rose -- indicating displeasure with the slowness of his younger sister.

I waited for awhile before I visited the booth because I wanted to give our young entrepreneurs a time to settle in.

“What are you selling?” I called to the kids from my car when I pulled up to the stand.

“Lemonade!” the youngest yelled back quickly, glancing at the large sign above their stand, wondering, I was sure, whether they had forgotten to proclaim the name of their product on the sign, or whether I was just a poor reader.

“Twenty-five cents a cup?” I inquired indicating that truly I could read.

“Yes, sir,” the youngest said, grinning from ear to ear and creating a picture Norman Rockwell would be proud to have painted. “Would you like some?” the child continued.

“Sure would,” I said, and waited for them to deliver the quickly-served plastic cup.

“How’s business?” I asked as my drink was delivered.

“Ok, we’re just getting started,” was the reply. “But we usually do great. We’ve got a good location on the main road, and our sign makes people stop.

“Have you done this before?” I asked, knowing the sound of experience I heard.

“Yes, sir. Every summer,” the youth replied.

“What’s the secret to your success?” I followed up, wondering if they knew what they were doing.

“Well, we smile a lot and act friendly,” she said, after a couple of prods from me to think about it.

“What do you do if someone doesn’t like your lemonade?” I asked.

“I’d give them back their money and pour it out,” she said, but added quickly with her salesman’s smile, “But I haven’t ever had anyone yet who didn’t like it.”

Our conversation sort of ended after that. I could tell she wanted to get back to her work, and, after all, I was an adult.

She took my money and tip and headed back to her stand to wait for the next customer to arrive.

My jaded side smiled and wondered whether our government regulators would require them to have a business license to operate their stand. Did the health department approve this operation, even though it didnt have a bathroom facility and they didn’t wear hair nets when they poured the lemonade? I knew their sign was in violation of zoning, and I’ll bet she didn’t report her tip to the IRS on her 1040. Yes, that was my jaded side, and forgive me for it.

My entrepreneurial side was proud — proud of the tradition that sets us apart from much of the rest of the world — the tradition that applauds the nation of capitalism and the start-up ventures which are the backbone of our economy.

I noted that even at this early age, Americans still know how to make money. More than that, they instinctively know what it takes to be successful in business:

  1. Have a good product.
  2. Find a good location on a main road
  3. Advertise with a sign or other appropriate method
  4. Smile a lot and act friendly
  5. If a customer doesn’t like your product, give the customer back his money, and throw the product out

If you are looking for a formula for success, here it is from the hearts and minds of two pre-teens with a yearning for success.

Happy Birthday, America, I thought! Thanks for the opportunity you give us.